Sunday, November 13, 2016

Signs of the Times

Growing up in the Northwest Bronx today bares little resemblance to its 1960s and 1970s forebear. The very same sentiment could be applied to growing up just about anywhere, I suppose. That’s because we now live in an ever-evolving Information Age. In fact, a case could be made that it’s a Too Much Information Age. The signs of the times are everywhere and impossible to miss.

When I was a boy, Kingsbridge-ites would “go into the city.” It’s the phrase that was regularly applied to our Bronx to Manhattan sojourns. Despite the Bronx being a borough of New York City—and a pretty famous one at that—the expression was both used and understood by everybody and anybody. One would “go into the city to see a play” or “go into the city to Christmas shop.” Here, at least, is something that has stood the test of time. Bronx residents still “go into the city” and many of them take the Number 1 subway train—the Broadway-Seventh Avenue local, which cuts a neat swath through the West Side of Manhattan, the most recognizable city part of the city.

I ventured “into the city” on the Number 1 train last weekend. Fittingly, I began my journey at the beginning, the Van Cortlandt Park station, where I spied a sign—for the very first time—that informed me the pride in the subway line was back. Funny, but I never knew it existed in the first place. Still, I was happy it was back. In the 1970s and 1980s, subway trains were covered in graffiti and grime, including the Number 1 fleet. Nevertheless, I suspect the “Pride Is Back” is a contemporary brander’s brainchild—an advertising concern that couldn’t tell you what exactly happened to the former pride, why it existed in the first place, and—the burning question of the moment—why it’s back.

In the city itself, more signs of the times were seen, including one at the entrance of a little park in lower Manhattan. It’s the first time I have ever been apprised of how many light poles, moveable chairs, and trees were within a park’s boundaries. I only counted twenty-four moveable chairs when the sign said twenty-five. I could have lodged a complaint with New York’s complaint hotline, 311, but took the high road.
Down wind from this park with three-dozen trees was a peculiar-looking building, the handiwork no doubt of a Jenga fan and architect. This aesthetically unappealing edifice was also blue—the icing on the unsightly cake. I fear, though, that its design is something of a trend. While down by New York Harbor a short while later, a skyscraper on the New Jersey side sported the same Lego look. And I thought the pencil-thin, uber-tall buildings—which have been sprouting up in New York's skyline of late—couldn’t be surpassed for ugliness, but I was wrong. The signs of the times never cease to shock and awe.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Wednesday’s Child

I ordinarily prefer not wading into overtly political minefields in this whimsical blog of mine. Because what’s the point, really? But I would be remiss in not commenting on the conclusion of the most elongated and bizarre of presidential elections.

I turned in a little after one o’clock on election night. The presidential contest had yet to be decided, but it was pretty apparent whom the winner would be. And I don’t mind telling you that I was full of woe when my head hit the pillow. Wednesday morning, of course, confirmed for me its surreal outcome. As per my norm, I pored over Facebook with a Cup of Joe beside me and Morning Joe on the boob tube. The former supplied me with enough hysteria and vitriol to last a lifetime. My personal favorite spleen venting involved a back-and-forth among the most ardent of Hillary haters, who called her every name conceivable—some unprintable—because she didn’t officially concede in the wee small hours of the morning. Were the shoe on the other foot, their candidate would have graciously thrown in the towel toot sweet after the network bean counters decreed. It wouldn’t have mattered in the least that the Electoral College tally was very close and that he maintained a lead in the popular vote. The irony of it all was lost on the spleen venters.

Interestingly, I read that same morning—the day after—how suicide prevention hotlines were swamped with post-midnight calls when The Donald was declared the winner. Coincidentally, I found a green post-it note blowing in the wind on Election Day morning. I was on my way to the polls when I spotted it, and a little voice inside of me whispered in my ear to reach down and pick it up. The note read: “Dear world, this world had been so mean to me so I decided to suicide.” Now, suicide isn’t a laughing matter, I know. It’s not painless, nor is it a verb. Honestly, I can’t say what a suicide note was doing on the ground in the great outdoors. My gut reaction was that it was a joke of some sort, but who knows? Remember, I found it eighteen hours before Donald Trump was christened the president-elect.

Really, I wish the president-apprentice well. He was elected fair and square in our democratic process. And one never knows how things will turn out. I certainly never thought a President Heat Miser possible, but life is full of surprises. In any event, I sincerely hope the post-it note I chanced upon was indeed a fake. Because hope—it’s been said—springs eternal. Let's hope....

(Photo two from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)